Firearms are a human right

Good news! Firearms are a human right, just like everything else these days.

Firearms are a human right

Healthcare is a human right.

Housing is a human right.

Education is a human right.

Only a small minority of Americans talk about "human rights" this way.  But they're an awfully vocal minority.  So it's worth pointing out something they're missing: guns!

What is more essential to humans than physical safety?  For example, defending yourself and your family is certainly more essential than education.  You can't enjoy free schooling if you're not alive, right?  So if education is a human right, or housing, healthcare, or pretty much anything else, the conclusion is unavoidable: firearms are a human right too.

Let's dive a little deeper into the philosophy, starting with something that everyone agrees with: At least after you're born, you have a right to life.  Let's imagine some meth addict walks up to you for no reason, stabs you in the brain, and kills you.  That is a violation of your right to life.  Following from this right to life, you have a right to defend your life.

People are entitled to take measures to stop their rights from being violated, especially when there is no remedy to a violation.  (And there's no remedy to death.). Following from this right to defend your life, you clearly have a right to the means of that defense.

It would be silly to say, "you have an irrevocable right to self-defense, but you're only allowed to use your bare hands."  In fact, for hundreds of years the traditional means of self-defense have been firearms.  Tradition says you should be able to shoot that crazy meth addict before he nails you.  The resulting logic is: if you have a right to life, you have a right to possess firearms.  The next question is how you come to possess these firearms.

There are two ways to look at "human rights": either they are positive rights or negative rights.  That minority of Americans making a fuss over "human rights" are believers in positive rights, but this perspective might be unfamiliar to you.  Instead let's start with negative rights, which all Americans are familiar with.  These fit a format of "I'm entitled to be free from X".  For example, the government can't infringe our right to bear arms, a company can't falsely advertise or breach a contract, a person can't randomly kick you in the neck, etc.  If they do, the government is responsible for pursuing justice on your behalf.

Positive rights are essentially the opposite of negative rights.  Positive rights fit a format of "I'm entitled to receive X."  Generally, that is interpreted to mean you should receive X through government action.  So positive rights to healthcare, housing, and education mean the government should be providing these things.  We have already established that firearms are a human right, regardless of how you look at human rights.  So the logical conclusion is that if you believe in positive rights, you believe the government should be providing people with guns.  In fact, if you believe in positive rights, then our government is violating our rights by not providing us with free guns.

So let's talk about what type of gun the government should provide to people.  Shotguns are safe, reliable, easy to operate, widely used, and relatively inexpensive.  A shotgun would be an ideal choice for the provide to American homes.  It seems sensible to limit free shotguns to one per household.  We might also want to limit free shotguns to households that don't already have a firearm in the home, but that will undoubtedly be debated.  Also, although 12 gauge is the obvious choice, it can have uncomfortable recoil for smaller people.  Perhaps there should be an option for 20 gauge at the preference of the head of household.  These things would need to be debated, but we could probably come to a sensible decision.  Of course, we would really need to run with the positive rights philosophy before this would be possible.

To be clear, at GunTab we believe "positive rights" are a fantasy.  There are many reasons, but the simple fact is that positive rights directly conflict with negative rights.  You can't say "people are entitled to be given free stuff" (positive right) and also say "people have a right to keep their property" (negative right).  Nobody can be entitled to receive wealth unless someone else is obliged to sacrifice it.  That means positive rights are impossible unless we impose a class system of takers and givers.  But "givers" is a very generous word.  It would be more accurate to say masters and slaves, or predators and prey.  Positive rights means you can say goodbye to any aspirations of equality.  But it gets worse.

The most essential right you have, the "right to life" that everybody agrees with, is a negative right.  Cultures that have practiced positive rights (most notably communist countries) have always been forced to compromise on negative rights.  These cultures have developed a reputation for democide (murder by government).  That is not a coincidence, it's a direct result of bad political philosophy.

To be fair, negative rights don't magically make the world perfect.  But human experience has proven that positive rights are pretty magical about making the world terrible.  If we want equal rights, and a world that isn't terrible, we must practice negative rights.

But it doesn't matter how you interpret "human rights."  Maybe you believe in positive rights and see human rights as an indefinite list of "positive" entitlements.  Or maybe, like the vast majority of Americans, you think positive rights are absurd and believe human rights are "negative" protections.  Either way, if you agree that every living person has a right to life, you can agree with the irrefutable logic: firearms are a human right.

Further reading

  • SE Smith at The Guardian says "gun ownership is not a human right ... a gun is not a basic necessity for survival."
  • Amnesty International turns the argument around and says, "Gun violence can lead to a violation of the most fundamental human right – the right to life. States have an obligation to fight actual or foreseeable threats to life and should therefore take measures to protect people from gun violence. If a state does not adequately control how private individuals own and use firearms, this could amount to a breach of their obligations under international human rights law to protect the rights to life and security of person."
  • AWR Hawkins at Human Events says, "Gun control could just be the ultimate human rights violation."
  • Bob Owens at Bearing Arms called self-defense a human right, and connected that with gun policy under a prospective Hillary Clinton presidency.
  • is dedicated to the idea of self-defense as a human right.